The Zeferelli version of “Romeo and Juliet” was made in the 1960s and is set in Verona. It has the more traditional approach to a Shakespearean text. The film is aimed at existing admirers of Shakespeare’s work, basically an older target audience. The actors in the film are white and have English accents. It is obvious that the film was set in Elizabethan times because of the costumes and the surroundings.
On the other hand Baz Luhrman’s version of Romeo and Juliet is aimed at a younger audience. The film is played out so young people can identify with it. An example of this is the way it deals with relationship problems like those of Romeo and Juliet who are trying to persuade their rival families to try and accept their relationship. The style of the film is slick and flashy, set in a modern day “California”. The actors come from a variety of backgrounds including Hispanic, White and black American ethnicities, no doubt Luhrman chose this mixture to reflect the different ethnicities of modern-day multicultural cities.
Luhrman bends the rules by changing Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” from an old classic play aimed at middle-aged people to an all action Hollywood film, which young people can relate to. He uses various camera shots like close ups, freeze frames, inserts and speed editing. The movie soundtrack is also modern with popular artists such as Des’ree, The Cardigans and Radiohead. The cast has popular young actors including Claire Danes and Leonardo Di Caprio.
In contrast to Luhrman’s opening, the Zeferelli version begins with the camera moving very slowly. We see a courtyard in the early morning mist. Then the sun rises and starts to shine with credits appearing over it. Slow Elizabethan music is played which introduces a sense of calm and history.
I think Zeferelli uses the sun to create themes of anger and passion. Zeferelli uses the sun as a symbol to represent the fight at the market as anger and the passion shared between Romeo and Juliet. The prologue, in the form of a voiceover, is narrated in a very classical English accent and tells us what we are about to see later on in the film.
However, at the start of the Luhrman version we see the use of a modern household appliance, a television screen .The prologue is read out by a black female newsreader. This symbolises cultural diversity, which would attract a broader audience. For a moment there is calm until the next shot, which is noisy. Loud opera music played with big white letters flashing up on the screen. The noise represents the ruckus caused by the rival families during the fight.
We see various different modern images; helicopters, police chases, distressed and angry faces, newspaper articles reporting on fights, skyscrapers with the names of “Capulet” and “Montague”. The prologue is then read again, this time by an American man. He speaks the prologue loudly while words flash up on the screen in big, white letters as he says them.
The next scene shows a group of boys in a car, shouting. In a similar style to Zeferelli, Luhrman uses certain types of clothes, music and colour to represent the different qualities of the characters. The Montague boys have body piercing and tattoos, brightly coloured modern clothes and are listening to heavy metal music, all of which were fashionable in the late 1990s when the Luhrman version was made. We may think of the Montagues as jokers because of their bright clothes, yellow, green and pink coloured.
In the Zeferelli version we see a very crowded and noisy market place. The camera focuses on two rowdy men who are again dressed in bright colours, yellow and red. As the two men are laughing and making jokes about women from a rival family, the Capulets, it is clear that these men are members of the Montague family. The audience may associate the colours which they are wearing with those associated with jokers. Zeferelli uses colour to represent the characters characteristics.
Zeferelli creates the effect of a real market place when people walk right in front of the camera. The hustle and bustle of people passing by makes it more authentic.
In this version, the Capulets show up they are very different to the Montagues. The audience would notice this in comparison to the clothes that the other people of the market place are wearing. They are dressed in black and gold, symbolising both death and wealth. Soon Tybalt Capulet moves into the picture, the camera moves very slowly from his feet up to his face then we see a close up shot of his face. Close-ups are there to help the audience identify with the character’s facial expression. An example of this is the mischievous look that Tybalt has on his face, as if he is going to start a fight with the Montagues.
When the eventual fight scene occurs the camera moves very quickly and we lose sight of who is fighting. All we can hear are people shouting and screaming, with a mix a close-ups and medium shots of various parts of the body. The camera creates the effect of complete havoc. This is meant to distress the audience and maximise the chaos. As the prince arrives and the crowd disperses he delivers his ultimatum to the families saying, “If ever you disrupt the quiet of our streets again, your lives will pay the forfeit of the peace”. Silence is observed by all so you can hear the prince’s words. This is because the prince’s speech is a crucial part of the story and his final threat underlines all that happens in the play. The camera makes him out to be strong and powerful, showing low shots of him so that he seems tall and courageous to the audience and therefore indicating his authority and power.
In the Luhrman version the fight takes place at a gas station instead of the market places of Zeferelli’s. Tybalt leads the Capulets. He comes across as fearless and powerful. When the camera shows his boots we associate them with cowboy boots from a western movie. Then this idea is confirmed by Western music playing in the background. The camera moves into a close- up shot of his face. The Capulets seem the most dangerous of the families; they have slicked back hair, wear leather and carry guns.
There are various similarities and differences between the two directors versions. Zeferelli stays much closer to Shakespeare’s classical style using the dusty streets of Verona for the set. On the other hand Luhrman’s is a modern version in which he uses images and music from modern pop culture. Both films are similar in the way that they convey the characters’ personalities in the same way as the original play.